Изображения страниц

former, and perceptibly gathering the latter. If let alone it will ultimately possess itself of both to such extent and in such degree as to command attention. Such movements are not retarded by neglect. What sets them in motion? Almost without exception the cause is found in evils existing in the thing or condition against which the movement is aimed. It is not difficult to find abundant cause of this kind in the transportation systems of this country. For years these evils have been known, discussed, and, finally, in some degree, legislated against. But these things have not checked the growth of the movement, the avowed purpose of which is to put the government in absolute control, through ownership, of the inter-state transportation of the country. This means, of course, all transportation within our borders, because ownership of the inter-state lines would necessarily result in the absorption of all others.


Would the result here indicated tend to promote the general welfare of this country? Leaving out of view, for the present, the question of constitutionality, we would urge certain other considerations of sufficient import to dispose of the case. practical results which must inevitably accompany government ownership and management of the transportation of the country demand attention. One of these will be an enormous addition to the number of persons in government employ, an addition of perhaps 500,000. But this is not a fixed number. It is ever on the increase. It is now a standing complaint that the railroad corporations interfere in political affairs; that they have no political conscience, and are guided solely by their own distinctive and selfish interests; that they influence the political actions of their multitudes of employees; that the capital, influence, and votes at their command are all employed to effect the purposes of the corporations, regardless of the harm that may befall the interests of communities and of individuals. That there is too much truth in these complaints may be admitted without contention. Will they disappear by transfer of the ownership and management of the railroads from the companies to the government? Will an increase of the volume of patronage reform the practices of political parties in the matter of its use and distribution? Thoughtful men would expect no such result.

If the suggested change should be made, how thorough shall it be? Is the government to be made a full and complete substitute for the system it is to displace? There are now mutual duties and obligations existing between the transportation companies and their patrons that are of great practical utility. These are all defined by law, and are universally understood. Transportation companies are now responsible to their patrons for all damages that may result to life, person, property, or business, by reason of failure rightly to perform the duties imposed by law, or lawful contract, on the service in which they are engaged. Is the government to assume like responsibility? Under the present system the injured party, unable to effect an amicable settlement of whatsoever claim he may have, finds the courts open to his immediate appeal for remedy. No matter how high or how humble he may be, no matter how great or how small his grievance may be, the courts are open to him against the mightiest or the most insignificant railroad company in the land. This is a feature of great justice and convenience in the present system. If the proposed change shall be effected, is this feature to be preserved or is it to disappear? The government does not allow itself to be sued except in cases specially provided for. While it may go into the courts against the citizen, it does not allow him a reciprocal right. The wronged citizen must go to Congress for relief, and this, in a large proportion of cases, means a denial of justice. He now has the ample local, judicial remedy. If the suggested change be made, his remedy is gone. Surely this is not a reform for which the people are longing.

If the government shall become the owner and manager of the transportation system of the country, will it confine its commercial enterprise to that one field of operations? If not, where next will it manifest its capacity for absorption? If the acknowledged abuses existing in the transportation system are sufficient to justify government ownership and management, we may be sure that government control will not stop there. If the government shall ever take that step, it will rely for its justifi cation on the power of Congress to regulate commerce. But transportation is not all there is of commerce. If the power

over commerce is plenary, and not merely regulative, why should Congress not enter the field of manufactures? Already there is an outery against the operations of trusts. Some of the abuses of this comparatively new commercial factor are even greater than those found in the transportation system. Why shall not the government assume the ownership and management of both? And if of both these, then why not of all other interests concerned with the great commercial operations of the country? If it may become the employer of the 500,000 persons engaged in the transportation service of the country, why not, by one other great effort, take in with them the 4,000,000 employed in the trades and manufactures? If the beginning be made, and a misinterpretation of the Constitution be enforced to justify it, will the process of absorption stop its operations short of taking in all there is of commerce?

What a splendid prospect this opens up for another department of government! It might be called the Department of Transportation and Manufactures. Can any one fail to appreciate the forceful character of such a factor in the politics of the country? The cabinet officer who should preside over the affairs of the new department and direct its operations, would have a volume of patronage at his command which would be irresistible in the elections of the country. A cheering prospect, truly, for the civil-service reformer! Does its presence, insignificant as it may now seem, portend good or evil to the general welfare? If it shall become a political force, as dominant as its possibilities are apparent, what plagues may it not project into the political conditions of this country? It is well for us to look it squarely in the face and thereby discover what it threatens. And what does it threaten? To reverse the order of procedure under the Constitution which has hitherto had the most beneficent results; to make the government a universal proprietor; to suppress the self-reliance of the citizen; to abolish the individual by merging him in the general mass of a dependent population; to establish the doctrine that the people were made for the government, and not the government for the people, and to dispense with that other and better maxim before quoted, a government of the people, by the people, for the people."


If these things are threatened by the tendencies of the times, can they be averted? Undoubtedly they can be. Already an important step has been taken in the right direction. That step was the enactment by Congress of the law to regulate commerce. The act needs amendment, and, doubtless, will receive it. It needs the aid of legislation by the States in order to do its full office in the matter of evolving a harmonious and satisfactory system of commercial regulation for the entire country. Interstate commerce and State commerce are so intimately associated and interwoven that the regulations applying to each should, in working together, constitute a harmonious whole. Such legislation alone can effectually check the tendencies of these times toward governmental absorption of interests which rightly it can assume only to regulate. It is useless to stand at rest and quarrel with these tendencies, whether they relate to railroads, business trusts, or any other subject to which the regulative power of Congress can be applied, for that will not arrest them. Action is the only remedy that can be made effective. It is matter for regret that action was not earlier had; for the long delay intensified the unrest which evolved the tendency toward undue enlargement of governmental functions. And it will be a sad thing for this country if Congress shall leave unused the regulative powers conferred on it by the Constitution, and allow the tendencies toward governmental absorption to prevail. Regulation can give the needed remedy. It can do this and not disturb or endanger our political conditions. It can counteract the forces which would enlarge the political patronage. It can preserve the self-reliance of the American character. It can maintain those conditions that are essential to the permanency of our institutions. It is the true spirit of our Constitution, and can defend that instrument against the cunningly devised assaults which may, if unsubdued, ultimately modify its true character, to the permanent injury of the system of popular government to which we owe the wondrous results and surprising successes of the first century of the republic.


[blocks in formation]

WHEN the history and the conduct of the Republican Party have been brought to the consideration of the people, it has become quite usual to reply: "The past is gone. You tell us often what you have done, but we wish to look forward and not backward, and wish to know what you now propose." This is very well and very practical, but, if any one of these querists were to consider to whom he would intrust his interest and his business for the future, his first inquiry would be in respect of the character and history of the candidate for employment. In the affairs of the world professions are cheap and protestations are plenty, and the value of professions and protestations must always largely depend upon the character of those who make them and the particular circumstances under which they are made. To intelligent people, therefore, it is almost a truism that an appeal to the public judgment and public confidence by either or both of the great political parties of the United States must rest, first, upon their history and character; secondly, upon the character of the measures of legislation or administration they have enacted, or propose for the consideration of the people; and thirdly, upon the intelligent belief of voters that such measures will be sincerely and vigorously carried into effect.

A statement of a few of the salient and principal points of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »